The Bloody Nose That Changed Me

25 07 2011

As I was running down the sidewalks of Riobamba a women and her child walked out of a store so I quickly dodged them, my foot hit a piece of pipe/metal sticking out from the cement sidewalk, and I went soaring through the air landing, limbs sprawled, on the sidewalk.  An adorable Ecuadorian women standing nearby immediately helped me up and brushed the dirt off of my bloody knees.  I thanked her and hobbled back to our hostel.  As I walked back I turned and looked in the window of a store to see the reflection of the huge smile stretched across my face.  I was almost taken aback by its size and genuine quality.  As I continued to limp down the street and laugh at myself, I felt so alive in such a real way.  I had an inclination that that day might have something in store for me.

That day we traveled to a small, breath-taking, beautiful town that sits at the foot of Chimborazo.  We had lunch, were paired up with families for a “cultural exchange experience,” and then presented our sales strategies charla to the women artisans’ organization in the community.  The idea was that we pay an organization called Cordutch to travel to this community to learn about their culture, experience their lifestyle, meet the women artisans and learn about their organization and give a charla for them about business strategies.  The idea of this day and so much of what SEC does emphasizes a mutual exchange of knowledge and culture.  I met my family and we began walking towards the fields engrossed in conversation.  For a while the conversation was very stimulating as we asked one another lots of questions and mutually learned about the similarities and differences between our lives.  They asked me why I wasn’t married with kids, if the rest of my family is as tall as me, and if I have cows in my backyard.  But within time, my day took a very interesting turn.  I was standing in the field with the little boy and his father while the little boy was teasing the lambs near by.  Something happened with the rambunctious lamb and he got a bloody nose.  The little boy realized that there was blood streaming from his nose and walked up to his father who yelled at him and walked up the hill to deal with the rest of the cows.  Next the little boy began picking grass and putting it up to his nose in attempts to stop the flow of blood.  At first I couldn’t move, I was just watching in a sort of shock like state.  Then I quickly realized that I had a napkin in my bag, got it out and helped him stop the blood flowing out of his nose.  I asked him if he was okay and he shook his head no.  I asked him if this happens a lot to him and he said no.  Then I had no more words.  I was sitting there in the greenest field in the most picturesque town as Chimborazo’s peak was towering behind me feeling so sad, helpless and angry and didn’t know why.  Shortly after his parents returned, the mother wiped some of the crusty blood from his face and we went to milk cows.  During the rest of the afternoon I spent with them I could hardly get myself to speak, I felt overwhelmed with confusion and sadness.  When it was time we walked back up to the center of town and said our goodbyes.  We gave our charla to the artisan organization and then got on the bus.

My friends asked me how my day was and as I began to speak I started to cry.  I kept stumbling on my words in a failure to articulate myself.  My friends remarked that all of my confusion is just me learning from this beautiful experience.  As we continued to talk things out I was explaining to them the resentment I was feeling towards myself.  I tried to explain that it is so hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that my visiting this town matters as much as it does, my money, my opinion, and my presence has such influence and significance without doing anything to deserve that.  I told them that I do not understand why I was born into such a fortunate comfortable life (in the USA) in which I will always have loving friends and family supporting me.  Next my dear friends Cate and Sara responded with some of the most amazing advice I have ever received in my life.  Cate told me that resenting myself for being who I am would only put me into a state of paralysis.  That resentment will only hinder me from being proactive, just as it did that afternoon.  This entire trip has given me the chance to form new values and dreams about the person I want to be and what I want to do with my life.  And I realized that resenting myself would never allow me to chase those dreams and live everyday with those new values in mind.  Next, my wonderful friend Sara hypothesized that it is the struggle between sympathy and empathy.  Wishing that you could empathize and knowing that you will never be able to is such a frustrating and confusing feeling.  After listening to my friends I returned to my seat and turned Tom Petty on my iPod.  I sat there and starred at the stars out the bus window.  I was comparing what I think my parent’s reaction to a bloody nose would be to his parents’ reaction.  As I pondered I realized that that very comparison is what learning, traveling, and culture is all about.  Every culture is different and beautiful because of it.  This little boy might grow up to be a wonderful person because of the tough love his parents gave him.  Maybe that tough love will be the only way he is able to survive.  Next I began to think about my personal feelings while I was sitting there with that boy.  I came to the conclusion that his bloody nose might be one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had.  Never have I felt so small in such a large world.  I was staring my own egoism in the face.  That day taught me, in such a real way, that no matter what environment I am in, it is always important to see myself as only a piece of the puzzle.  Conversely, that bloody nose opened my eyes to the power one person has.  That little boy and I are just two people living on this earth, and we were just sitting in one field, in one country on planet Earth, but he changed my life.  Thus, this humbling experience encouraged me to use my influence and power to strive towards achieving the big world-changing dreams I have developed over the past two months.  It taught me to always embrace every second of now that you have, and to not let the potential beautiful moments slip away because you are too tired or angry or not in the mood.  And finally it taught me to always learn about and learn from people unlike me, because at the end of the day, that little boy and I might live totally different lives on different continents, but we both have the power to change and influence people.  I might only have the power to influence just one person, but after meeting that precious boy I can only dream of affecting one person the way he affected me.  I zoomed out and saw myself sitting on a bus, listening to Tom Petty, thinking the thoughts I was thinking, and realized that I had never thought those things before and that my life was changing.

(Margaret Miller)

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